Monday, July 31, 2017

July Wrap-up--Mostly Brig

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Brig
I went to Brig 9 times this month--more than twice a week by a fraction. I went by myself, with Shari, with Mike, with Bob, and on a couple of NJ Audubon field trips. Most of the birds I saw this month, I saw at Brig and all but one of my year birds were found at Brig this month. Doing the arithmetic, that means 128 miles of birding at Brig. Summer birding in NJ.

I did go other places, particularly early in the month when warblers and other passerines were still somewhat vocal, but once the weather gets really warm, it is hard in the woods to hold up your binoculars and swat away bugs at the same time.

While I had 143 species for the month, a respectable number, I only added 5 birds to the year list, my worst month so far by far. And I won't even go into the incredibly frustrating saga of the Roseate Spoonbill that spent two days eluding all but a handful of birders in Ocean County. And what did everyone say when we couldn't find it in Ocean County? "Oh, it'll probably turn up at Brig."

Counties Birded: Atlantic, Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean
Species                  First Sighting
Snow Goose   Brig
Canada Goose   Brig
Mute Swan   Brig
Wood Duck   Brig
American Black Duck   Brig
Mallard   Brig
Blue-winged Teal   Brig
Green-winged Teal   Brig
Red-breasted Merganser   Island Beach SP
Wild Turkey   35 Sunset Rd
Pied-billed Grebe   Brig
Double-crested Cormorant   Brig
Brown Pelican   Island Beach SP
Least Bittern   Brig
Great Blue Heron   Baldpate Mt
Great Egret   Brig
Snowy Egret   Brig
Little Blue Heron   Brig
Tricolored Heron   Island Beach SP
Green Heron   Union Transportation Trail
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Brig
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Brig
White Ibis   Brig
Glossy Ibis   Brig
Black Vulture   Baldpate Mt
Turkey Vulture   Brig
Osprey   Brig
Mississippi Kite   GSP MM 69
Cooper's Hawk   Rt 539 New Egypt
Bald Eagle   Brig
Red-tailed Hawk   NJ-29 S, Trenton
Clapper Rail   Brig
Common Gallinule   Brig
American Avocet   Brig
American Oystercatcher   Brig
Black-bellied Plover   Brig
Semipalmated Plover   Brig
Piping Plover   Island Beach SP
Killdeer   Brig
Whimbrel   Brig
Marbled Godwit   Brig
Ruddy Turnstone   Great Bay Blvd
Stilt Sandpiper   Brig
Sanderling   Island Beach SP
Least Sandpiper   Brig
White-rumped Sandpiper   Brig
Pectoral Sandpiper   Brig
Semipalmated Sandpiper   Brig
Western Sandpiper   Brig
Short-billed Dowitcher   Brig
Long-billed Dowitcher   Brig
Spotted Sandpiper   Great Bay Blvd
Greater Yellowlegs   Brig
Willet   Brig
Lesser Yellowlegs   Brig
Laughing Gull   Brig
Ring-billed Gull   Brig
Herring Gull   Brig
Great Black-backed Gull   Brig
Least Tern   Brig
Gull-billed Tern   Brig
Caspian Tern   Brig
Black Tern   Brig
Common Tern   Island Beach SP
Forster's Tern   Brig
Royal Tern   Island Beach SP
Black Skimmer   Brig
Mourning Dove   Brig
Yellow-billed Cuckoo   Brig
Black-billed Cuckoo   Crosswicks Creek Park
Eastern Whip-poor-will   35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift   Baldpate Mt
Ruby-throated Hummingbird   Brig
Red-headed Woodpecker   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Baldpate Mt
Downy Woodpecker   35 Sunset Rd
Northern Flicker   Baldpate Mt
Peregrine Falcon   Brig
Eastern Wood-Pewee   Baldpate Mt
Willow Flycatcher   Brig
Eastern Phoebe   Bright View Farm
Great Crested Flycatcher   Brig
Eastern Kingbird   Brig
White-eyed Vireo   Baldpate Mt
Yellow-throated Vireo   Baldpate Mt
Warbling Vireo   Mercer Sod Farm IBA
Red-eyed Vireo   Baldpate Mt
Blue Jay   35 Sunset Rd
American Crow   Brig
Fish Crow   35 Sunset Rd
Northern Rough-winged Swallow   Brig
Purple Martin   Brig
Tree Swallow   Brig
Bank Swallow   Brig
Barn Swallow   Brig
Carolina Chickadee   35 Sunset Rd
Tufted Titmouse   Brig
White-breasted Nuthatch   Baldpate Mt
House Wren   35 Sunset Rd
Marsh Wren   Brig
Carolina Wren   Brig
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   Baldpate Mt
Eastern Bluebird   Bright View Farm
Veery   Baldpate Mt
Wood Thrush   Baldpate Mt
American Robin   Brig
Gray Catbird   Brig
Brown Thrasher   Brig
Northern Mockingbird   Mercer Sod Farm IBA
European Starling   Wawa-Jackson
Cedar Waxwing   Baldpate Mt
Ovenbird   Baldpate Mt
Blue-winged Warbler   Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve
Black-and-white Warbler   Baldpate Mt
Common Yellowthroat   Brig
Hooded Warbler   Baldpate Mt
Yellow Warbler   Baldpate Mt
Chestnut-sided Warbler   Baldpate Mt
Pine Warbler   Whitesbog
Prairie Warbler   Whitesbog
Grasshopper Sparrow   Juliustown Rd
Saltmarsh Sparrow   Great Bay Blvd
Seaside Sparrow   Brig
Chipping Sparrow   Brig
Field Sparrow   Brig
Song Sparrow   35 Sunset Rd
Swamp Sparrow   Whitesbog
Eastern Towhee   35 Sunset Rd
Northern Cardinal   35 Sunset Rd
Rose-breasted Grosbeak   Baldpate Mt
Blue Grosbeak   Crosswicks Creek Park
Indigo Bunting   Baldpate Mt
Dickcissel   Juliustown Rd
Red-winged Blackbird   Brig
Eastern Meadowlark   Mercer Sod Farm IBA
Common Grackle   Brig
Boat-tailed Grackle   Brig
Brown-headed Cowbird   Brig
Orchard Oriole   Brig
Baltimore Oriole   Baldpate Mt
House Finch   Brig
American Goldfinch   Brig
House Sparrow   Wawa-Jackson
Green Heron, Union Transportation Trail

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Brig 7/30--Black Tern

Brig yet again. After feeling thoroughly beat up by Brig yesterday (the wind, the high water, the gray day), I decided to go back to see if I could do better on a day where the viewing conditions weren't so onerous. Since I knew Bob Auster was intending to go today, I texted him my intentions and, happily, I decided to go back to the parking lot from the Gull Pond to use the outhouse before turning on the 8 mile drive, because he responded just as I was making the decision not to turn right. We met up and returned to the Gull Pond tower, where I had found the sporadically reported, out-of-season Pied-bill Grebe. It was still in sight.

Then we turned on to the Wildlife Drive to seek out the rare and not officially rare (but hard to get) birds that had been reported. Bob needed White Ibis as a state bird (Shari & I got a brief look at one yesterday) and if wasn't too long before we found one, a juvenile, in the impoundment off the south dike.
White Ibis
We moved up the road to Goose Marker 4, a spot that all year has had an island where terns and skimmers have roosted but the water was still too high. We ran into a couple of guys we knew who had the other White Ibis (another juvenile), as well as an American Avocet. While avocet at this time of year is not considered rare by eBird, you typically only get one or so a season. Brig ain't Bombay Hook where you might find 400 this time of year. I'd seen one avocet there in June, but both Bob & I needed it for the state.
American Avocet
While at least today I have a picture of yesterday's year bird, I don't think tomorrow I'll be able to get a photo of today's. The juvenile Black Tern that a group of us picked out on the mud flat at the NE corner of the drive was too far away for any decent photography (or even crappy digiscopes, which I tried), but it was clearly a different, small tern easily distinguished from the much larger Forster's Terns (or as spellchecker would have it "Forester's Terns" brought to you by Subaru) and the few Least Terns it was resting with. Keener eyes than mine were able to pick out a few Common Terns flying around the water control sluice gate; I need them to be still before I can pick one out.  Again, Black Tern is supposedly expected this time of year but it is still a much sought after bird, like a fruit that is only in season for a couple of weeks. Later, on our second trip around, Bob and I found the bird roosting on the roadway with a few Least Terns, but, before I could get the camera on and focused, another vehicle flushed them into the air.

Yesterday, under terrible conditions I had 42 species. Today, while it was still breezy, it was clear and sunny and not nearly as blustery; I had 57 species. Meh.

Canada Goose 80
Mute Swan 6
Wood Duck 6 Gull Pond
American Black Duck 6
Mallard 6
Pied-billed Grebe 1 Gull Pond. Stubby, pied bill. Continuing
Double-crested Cormorant 5
Great Blue Heron 3
Great Egret 50
Snowy Egret 40
Black-crowned Night-Heron 2
White Ibis 2 Continuing. Brown above white below.
Glossy Ibis 12
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 10
Clapper Rail 3
American Avocet 1
American Oystercatcher 1
Semipalmated Plover 50
Least Sandpiper 9
Semipalmated Sandpiper 300
Western Sandpiper 1 On rocks of Turtle Cove
Short-billed Dowitcher 4
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Willet 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Laughing Gull 100
Herring Gull 50
Great Black-backed Gull 10
Least Tern 3
Gull-billed Tern 4
Caspian Tern 1
Black Tern 1 N
Forster's Tern 50
Black Skimmer 30
Mourning Dove 4
Eastern Kingbird 3
Blue Jay 1 Heard Upland
Fish Crow 1
Purple Martin 2
Tree Swallow 50
Barn Swallow 5
Carolina Chickadee 2 Heard
Marsh Wren 3 Heard
Carolina Wren 2 Heard
American Robin 3
Gray Catbird 2
European Starling 1
Common Yellowthroat 1 Heard
Yellow Warbler
1 Heard
Chipping Sparrow 2 Heard Parking Lot
Field Sparrow 1 Heard
Song Sparrow 2 Heard
Eastern Towhee 1 Heard, upland section
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Common Grackle 1
American Goldfinch 2

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Brig 7/29--White Ibis

I have been to Brig 5 or 6 times this month (there's really nowhere else to go mid-summer), always looking for the reported juvenile White Ibises and always missing these increasingly common rarities. Today I had my secret weapon with me--Shari.

We originally had planned a trip through the Cape May marshes on the Skimmer, a boat trip we like to take once or twice a year, but, though the rain had stopped, the wind was about 25 mph and the trip was cancelled. We hemmed and hawed about going down to Brig--my inclination was not to go because of the wind, but after lunch we decided to head down there anyway--the winds were supposed to be "only" 12 to 15 mph.

It seemed a lot windier than that and it was dank and dreary. While I was standing atop the observation tower the wind was so strong that I couldn't even hear what Shari was shouting up at me from below, no matter how close she got to the platform.

The tide seemed high and the water levels were oceanic--all the recent rain was impounded along with the surrounding water. But just as we made the turn onto the Wildlife Drive first Shari, then I saw a brown above/white below ibis fly out of the marsh. We followed it for a few seconds before it dove down into the phragmites, not to be seen again. Still we had our year bird.

The water was so high that about the only place there was for roosting birds was either the rocks along the beach at Turtle Cove or the drive itself. Along and on the road we saw a a Saltmarsh Sparrow skittering to and fro like a mouse, hundreds of Semipalmated Sandpipers, more Semipalmated Plovers than the eBird filter was willing to accept, a dozen Least Tern, and toward the end of the drive a Black Skimmer who did not seem interested in joining with the flock.

We only made one loop and did no walking. I finished the day with 42 species; Shari had one more, a catbird I missed as we were entering the refuge.
Snow Goose 2 Continuing injured
Canada Goose 40
Mute Swan 6
Mallard 5
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 50
Snowy Egret 40
Tricolored Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 2
White Ibis 1
Glossy Ibis 15
Osprey 10
Clapper Rail 3 Heard
American Oystercatcher 1
Semipalmated Plover 75 Underestimated
Whimbrel 11
Least Sandpiper 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper 400
Short-billed Dowitcher 3
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 5
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Laughing Gull 90
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 120
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Least Tern 12
Gull-billed Tern 1
Forster's Tern 30
Black Skimmer 125
Mourning Dove 3
Blue Jay 1 Heard
Tree Swallow 10
Barn Swallow 4
Marsh Wren 2
European Starling 25
Saltmarsh Sparrow 1
Eastern Towhee 1 Heard
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Boat-tailed Grackle 15
American Goldfinch
1 Heard

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Brig 7/22--Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher (in front), Short-billed Dowitchers
& Semipalmated Sandpipers
I wasn't intending on going back to Brig so soon after my trip there on Thursday with Bob, but when we both read that the White Ibis (juvenile) had been seen again on Friday, we decided to go to down for the Audubon trip, this one led by Scott with assistance from Linda, Mike, and Carol.

The shorebirds are showing up in good numbers now--mostly Short-billed Dowitchers and Semipalmated Sandpipers. I'm happy to save my sight and let others squint through their scopes at the large flocks to find the less common species like Western Sandpiper and Stilt Sandpiper that are mixed in. Scott found a Marbled Godwit when we stopped at the NE corner, which is about the same place one was 3 weeks ago, and Mike came up with a bird that after much inspection in the glaring light and heat, the leaders all agreed was a Long-billed Dowitcher. Probably out of the all the shorebirds, differentiating between an LBDO from a SBDO is the hardest i.d. for me to make. This is why at least once a week, I like to bird with others, to pick up the birds I wouldn't be confident enough to list if I was by myself.

There is the concept among birders of the "sacrificial birder," i.e. the birder who leaves so that others can find the good birds. The concept worked twice at Brig. First it worked for us, those that remained, when about half the group left after lunch, not willing to face another 8 miles of heat, dust, and flies. We found, long the road to the Gull Pond and at the Gull Pond itself, a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, a Green Heron, and best of all, a Least Bittern. All these birds are relatively scarce at Brig and the bittern is always an exciting find.

But then it worked against us, as, after we all left, the juvenile White Ibis was reported. We looked carefully through all 97 Glossy Ibises that were there, and with eyes like Scott's, Mike's, Linda's, et al, I seriously doubt it was overlooked. Yet, we weren't gone a half hour before someone filed a report on eBird that the bird was seen right where it had been for the last couple of days, about 1/4 mile before the observation tower. We were the sacrificial birders. Hey, it happens.

76 species
Canada Goose 225
Mute Swan 10
Wood Duck 8
American Black Duck 4
Mallard 55
Double-crested Cormorant 50
Least Bittern 1 Gull Pond
Great Blue Heron 5
Great Egret 100
Snowy Egret 50
Little Blue Heron 1
Green Heron 1 Gull Pond
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1 Gull Pond
Glossy Ibis 97
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 10
Clapper Rail 5 NE corner
Common Gallinule 1 Gull Pond
American Oystercatcher 1 Turtle Cove
Semipalmated Plover 6
Killdeer 1 Observation Tower
Whimbrel 13
Marbled Godwit 1 Large Cinnamon colored bird with upturned bill
Stilt Sandpiper 5
Least Sandpiper 10
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper 320
Western Sandpiper 3
Short-billed Dowitcher 900
Long-billed Dowitcher 1 Larger redder with straight bill and rounded back
Greater Yellowlegs 10
Willet 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 8
Laughing Gull 100
Ring-billed Gull 2
Herring Gull 75
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Least Tern 2
Gull-billed Tern 4
Caspian Tern 1
Common Tern 1 NE Corner
Forster's Tern 60
Black Skimmer 50
Mourning Dove 8
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Heard
Peregrine Falcon 1 Hacking Platform
Willow Flycatcher 1
Eastern Phoebe 1 Heard
Great Crested Flycatcher 1 Heard
Eastern Kingbird 1
American Crow 1 Heard Upland
Fish Crow 7
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Purple Martin 5
Tree Swallow 3
Bank Swallow 2
Barn Swallow 1
Tufted Titmouse 1 Heard
Marsh Wren 3 Heard
Carolina Wren 1 Heard
American Robin 1 Heard
Gray Catbird 2
European Starling 10
Common Yellowthroat 2 Heard
Yellow Warbler
1 Gull Pond
Seaside Sparrow 3
Chipping Sparrow 1 Heard
Field Sparrow 1 Heard
Northern Cardinal 1 Heard
Indigo Bunting 1 Heard
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Common Grackle 1
House Finch 5
American Goldfinch 2

Thursday, July 20, 2017

IBSP 7/20--Royal Tern

Royal Tern, 
(the bigger this picture gets
the worse it looks)
Bob Auster and I set out for Island Beach this morning, where a number of interesting birds were reported yesterday. Unfortunately, you really needed a kayak or canoe to see those birds and we are landlubbers. We stopped at the Winter Anchorage first, where we could see on the sandbar a good variety of species. One of them turned out to be my first Royal Tern of the year.

Out on Sedge Island, I could see 3 "kids" I know, walking around with scopes. I've always said that you could walk out to Sedge Island at low tide. They did. But it does bring up the time & tide problem, because if you don't time it right, you're stuck there, or worse, if you think you can get back and find a low spot, you have very expensive, very wet optics. Happily they made it back with only a couple of minor slips. Out on the island they did see the Marbled Godwit (a regular out there for the last few years) but didn't see either of the two cool terns (Black & Sandwich) reported yesterday.

Bob & I then took the long walk from the last parking lot to the inlet, probably about a mile and a half one way. Low tide made the walking easy and after we got past the fishermen to the no vehicle zone where the Piping Plovers have nested (successfully) for the 2nd year, we had lots of Sanderlings and a few other shorebirds to keep us occupied, but mostly, we were amused by the Brown Pelicans in two, threes, and fives, that we saw drifting overhead. They always remind me, hard to say why, like the old Pan Am flying boats of the thirties.

But it was the inlet that was spectacular--on the old dike there were, according to Bob's count, 48 pelicans roosting, and scattered among them, were 40 American Oystercatchers. It would have made a great wallpaper pattern.

Some of the Brown Pelicans.
A report showed up on Jerseybirds of two White Ibis at Brig. Neither of us has White Ibis for the year, and Bob doesn't have it as a state bird, so despite my ambivalence about chasing, we chased, arriving at Brig about 4 hours after the email. And probably a dollar short because, despite looking at every stinking Glossy Ibis there, we found neither the White Ibis (juveniles, as it turns out) nor even a red-eyed White-faced Ibis. And unlike the pleasant breeze coming off the ocean as we walked on the almost concrete-like sand at Island Beach, at Brig there was a blast furnace wind that coated everything and you in dust, that rose in little puffy clouds as you swatted away the very hungry, aggressive greenhead flies. Fun.